‘It’s on again, people!’ Gary Cho stood on his dusty blue milk crate and beamed at the members of the Shady Creek Riding Club. Gary is the most awesome Riding Club instructor anywhere in the world. ‘The fourteenth annual Pinebark Ridge Western Riding Club Show is on in eight weeks.’
‘Cool!’ I murmured, rubbing my fingers in my gorgeous chestnut mare’s soft copper-coloured mane. I’d never done any Western riding. But I never let details like that stop me. Once I knew there was a show on I wanted in.
Ash, as the title suggests, is mad about horses and riding. In this fifth instalment of the ‘Horse Mad’ series, Ash is learning about ‘Western’ riding. Even for someone who eats, sleeps and breathes horses and riding, there is a lot to learn. And there’s only eight short weeks to learn it before the competition. Ash may be horse mad, but there are plenty of other things going on in her life. Her parents are opening a bed & breakfast business, her best friend’s father has a secret, her employer’s English granddaughters are in town, and Jenna, her moved-to-Italy best friend is not answering emails. As the Western riding competition and her 12th birthday approach, Ash also has to worry about whether she’ll be offered a chance to go to Linley Heights ‘horsey’ boarding school or whether she should stay at home and go to the local high school with her friends.
Horse Mad Western may be No 5 in a series but it also stands alone quite comfortably. There are references to other adventures, but it is not necessary to have read previous offerings to enjoy this one. Horse-lovers will enjoy the detail of different riding experiences, but there’s plenty of action for the general reader. Ash, the main character, is at the end of primary school and much in her life is changing. She’s duelling with her parents, her friends are changing, as are her foes. She’s on the brink of adolescence, swinging between impulse and responsibility. Her determination and devotion to friends and to riding help her find a way through the most testing of times. Recommended for 9-12 yo, particularly horse-lovers.
Horse Mad Western, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2008
Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
I have to admit to being like Jenna in this novel, and not overly fussed on horses. However from talking to girls in the 8-12 age group, I realise I am in the minority. This book will certainly appeal to those with a passion for horses. But even those who do not share this obsession will relate to the problems that arise in friendships.
Ashleigh is desperate for her city friend Jenna, to meet her new best friend Becky. But as often happens with a threesome, Becky and Jenna view each other as rivals. This aspect of the story took me back to my own childhood and a similar event at about the same age. Tension builds between the girls. Ashleigh finds loyalty to one friend could well cost her friendship with the other. Any girl who’s ever tried to get friends from different worlds together will relate to Ashleigh’s experience of feeling ‘like the ham in the sandwich.’ The behaviour of Carly and the Creepketeers who make Ashleigh’s and Becky’s time at Shady Creek Riding club difficult, is also well portrayed.
Perhaps the ending was a little too neat but I doubt most readers will have a problem with that.
Girls from 8-11 will enjoy this story. They won’t have to have read the first in the series to be able to read this one.
Sure to find a receptive audience.
Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis
HarperCollins ARP $14.99
Age guide 8+ exciting read.
A thousand dollars. Wow! I’d never had a thousand dollars in my life. I’d never been near a thousand dollars. I’d never even seen a thousand dollars. And for someone who’d done as much fundraising as I had to save up for a horse of my own, that was saying something.
When Ashleigh hears about the prizes for winning the Waratah Grove Junior Cross-Country Riding Championships, she’s pretty excited. Almost as excited as she is about the approaching summer holidays. She is going to be spending it with her best friend Becky, and her other best friend Jenna, who is coming down from the city to stay for four whole weeks. What could be better than a horse-mad summer with her friends?
Soon, though, Ashleigh’s summer plans hit a rough patch. Jenna and Becky don’t seem to like each other – and Jenna doesn’t even like horse riding. Becky is picked to compete at the Championships and, although Ashleigh is pleased for her, she can’t help feeling disappointed. Will anything go right?
Horse Mad Summer is a horsy story that will appeal to all young horse-lovers but will also be enjoyed by those who aren’t ‘in’ to horses. Much more than a story about horses and riding, it is also full of action, adventure and the challenges of friendship.
This is author Kathy Helidoniotis’s second story featuring Ashleigh and her friends, however although those who read the first will be delighted to read the sequel, those who haven’t will not be lost. It stands alone as an entertaining read.
An excellent offering.
Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Banana Books, 2005